"The Executioner" by Malaquias Montoya, Silkscreen, 2003
"A More Gentle Way of Killing" by Malaquias Montoya, Silkscreen, 2003
"The thing I regret most that I cannot change -- except by what I do now -- was drafting the death penalty initiative."
Don Heller, who wrote California's Death Penalty Law
Twenty years ago, California entered into the "modern era" of capital punishment, resuming the practice of state killing after a quarter century hiatus. This year, 2012, with a majority of Californians now preferring permanent imprisonment to the death penalty, Requiem for the Death Penalty is presenting a series of events to remind us of the seriousness of this issue, and to provoke thought and action towards ending the death penalty.
The political winds blowing toward abolition are stronger now than they have been since executions resumed. Senior Judge Arthur L. Alarcon, U. S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, a supporter of capital punishment, in a study released in 2011 concluded, "this research confirmed California Supreme Court Chief Justice Ronald George's opinion that the review procedures for capital cases are 'dysfunctional,' and Circuit Judge Kozinski's view that the existence of a death penalty has become an 'illusion.'" Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye, has said that the death penalty is no longer effective in California and that she would welcome a public debate on its merits and costs. The costs, so far, have exceeded several billion dollars spent on 13 executions while the state flounders on the edge of bankruptcy.
Former supporters of the death penalty, like ex-Los Angeles D.A. Gil Garcetti, have changed their minds: "California's death penalty does not and cannot function the way its supporters want it to. It is also an incredibly costly penalty, and the money would be far better spent keeping kids in school, keeping teachers and counselors in their schools and giving the juvenile justice system the resources it needs. Spending our tax dollars on actually preventing crimes, instead of pursuing death sentences after they're committed, will assure us we will have fewer victims." Donald Heller, the author of California's expansive 1978 death penalty law, concluded, "It makes no sense to prop up such a failed system… The way I look at it, what I created can and may already have resulted in the death of an innocent person. And that's pretty heavy."